Anthony John "Tony" Hancock (12 May 1924 – 24 June 1968) was an English comedian and actor.
Popular during the 1950s and early 1960s, he had a major success with his BBC series Hancock's Half Hour, first on radio from 1954, then on television from 1956, in which he soon formed a strong professional and personal bond with comic actor Sid James. Although Hancock's decision to cease working with James around 1960 disappointed many of his fans at the time, his last BBC series in 1961 contains some of his best remembered work ("The Blood Donor"). After breaking with his scriptwriters Ray Galton and Alan Simpson later that year, his career took a downward course because of his increasing dependence on alcohol.
Hancock was born in Southam Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, Warwickshire (some sources incorrectly say Small Heath, a different Birmingham district) but from the age of three was brought up in Bournemouth, where his father, John Hancock, who ran the Railway Hotel in Holdenhurst Road, worked as a comedian and entertainer.
After his father's death in 1934, Hancock and his brothers lived with their mother and stepfather at a small hotel then called the Durlston Court (now renamed Hotel Celebrity). He attended Durlston Court Preparatory School, a boarding school at Durlston in Swanage (moved during World War II and now located in Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire) and Bradfield College in Reading, Berkshire, but left school at the age of fifteen.
In 1942, during World War II, Hancock joined the RAF Regiment. Following a failed audition for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), he ended up on the Ralph Reader Gang Show. After the war, he returned to the stage and eventually worked as resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre, a venue which helped to launch the careers of many comedians at the time, and worked on radio shows such as Workers' Playtime and Variety Bandbox.
Over 1951–52, for one series, Hancock was a cast member of Educating Archie, in which he mainly played the tutor (or foil) to the nominal star, a ventriloquist's dummy. His appearance in this show brought him national recognition, and a catchphrase he used frequently in the show, "Flippin' kids!", became popular parlance. The same year, he made regular appearances on BBC Television's popular light entertainment show Kaleidoscope. In 1954, he was given his own eponymous BBC radio show, Hancock's Half Hour.